June 28, 2:35 p.m.
Early this afternoon, we received the following update from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game:
“We regret having to bear bad news. The juvenile female hit a window downtown and died this morning.”
Our Fish and Game Department has been doing an incredible job following up on the falcons this year. After rescuing all four of the fledglings and banding them, it is unfortunate that they also had to report on the first mortality.
Young falcons nesting on cliffs outside of cities face mortality from Great Horned Owls, Golden Eagles, as well as from hitting power lines or fences near the eyrie.
Fledging falcons nesting in cities, on the other hand, face mortality primarily from hitting windows, falling down steam vents, fledging from nests on bridges into the water and drowning, or from hitting cables or wires. On the positive side, cities provide a great prey base for the adults to feed their young.
It is all a gradual learning process and quite unforgiving for young falcons that make mistakes. This is the reason that well over 50% of young Peregrines and raptors in general do not survive their first season in the wild. Peregrines that do survive their first year have a mortality rate of only about 12% as sub-adults and adults.
Fish and Game rescued one of the male chicks today after it became stuck behind a structure on the roof of the Banner Bank building, located two blocks north of the nest box. Thanks goes to the maintenance man who regularly checks the roof after a fledgling got caught in that same spot a couple of years ago. The chick was returned to the roof of One Capital Center after being fitted with a band, so now all of them have an identification number. The count is now official: three males, one female.
It appears that all four chicks have fledged, Fish and Game reports. Observers have seen the juveniles flying around One Capital Center and elsewhere in downtown Boise. The parents will continue to feed them for several weeks until the young are proficient at flying and hunting and can survive on their own.
Now that the chicks are away from the webcam and out of sight, we have replaced the video feed with a slide show that will be updated frequently as fledging progresses. We thank local photographers Bob Young and Thinh Do for these images.
There are reports that at least one of the chicks may have fledged successfully over the weekend. As soon as any fledging is confirmed by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, we will let you know.
Other photographers are welcome to submit photographs of the downtown Boise falcons. Send them to email@example.com with the subject line “falcon photos.” Please limit the number of photos to no more than five per day.
We also are grateful to our partner Fiberpipe for generously supplying the live webcam feed again this season.
More rescues! Fish and Game has come to the aid so far of three of the four chicks and taken them to the roof of the building on which the nest box is located. On Tuesday evening, building staff alerted Fish and Game about a chick on the ground about the same time that a strong wind and dust storm swept through the area. The male was taken up to the roof to join his brother, which had been placed there earlier that morning.
On Wednesday morning, a chick was spotted in the building’s parking lot and Fish and Game was once again called to the scene. This time, it was a female. There was blustery wind and rain in the morning, so perhaps weather was again a factor. Or maybe she was just anxious to try her wings. Meantime, the adults are flying and vocalizing loudly overhead, keeping a sharp eye on all the activity.
Following up on reports from sharp-eyed FalconCam viewers, we learned that one of the chicks fell off the ledge prematurely at 9:30 p.m. Monday. The bird was rescued, and authorities returned it to the roof of the One Capital Center building the next morning. Fish and Game biologists identified it as a plump and very healthy male and fitted him with an identification band. The adult falcons circled overhead as he was returned to safety and will continue to feed him there.
After fledging does occur, authorized personnel should be notified if a chick is injured or in danger. People who encounter a chick on a street or sidewalk should not attempt to capture or handle the bird. Instead, call:
These chicks are fortunate to have human assistance available if they run into trouble. In the wild, more than half of all young birds do not survive their first year, succumbing to predators, weather, and injuries.
The chicks decided over the weekend that the nest box was no longer as interesting as the outside world. They will now start spending much of their time on the ledge, which is about 40 inches wide and extends the length of the building. Here, they have plenty of space to vigorously flap their wings and take short practice hops in advance of fledging. The north-facing ledge also provides shade and ventilation on hot summer days.
The adults will continue to bring food to the young ones on the ledge. Whenever you hear excited vocalizing, you can be sure an adult is delivering a meal. Even in hot weather, the young ones get adequate moisture from the meat they eat. After fledging, they may drink water occasionally to supplement what they receive through food.
Peregrine Falcons generally fledge about 42 days after hatching,
Each white downy feather on the chicks marks the spot where a flight or body feather will emerge. As the adult feathers grow in, the young birds preen, or groom themselves, to remove the tiny bits of down clinging to the tip of the new feathers. This instinctive preening behavior continues throughout a bird’s life to keep feathers aligned in tip-top shape for flying.
The adults can be seen reaching toward the base of their tail during a grooming session to extract a small amount of oil from their uropygial gland. Using their beaks, the birds coat their feathers with this protective, water-repelling oil. A good portion of the day in the life of a Peregrine Falcon – the fastest and among the most impressive aerialists in the avian world – is spent on the all-important task of preening.
The chicks are gaining enough strength to move around and explore their little corner of the world. They are increasingly able to walk, rather than shuffle around on their haunches. The ability to stand fully upright will be a relief to the parents because the chicks can start learning to feed themselves.
This is nail-biting time for viewers because the chicks walk right up to the edge of the nest box, causing many people to fear that the young birds will fall or be blown off the 14-story building. Though that is a remote possibility, the chicks are simply doing what comes naturally. Their instinct is to fly. Like toddlers learning to walk, they must test their limits – even if it causes webcam watchers to cringe.
The chicks can now stay warm on their own and don’t need to be brooded. Besides, they are too big to fit under the adults! Although the chicks appear to be alone at times, at least one adult is close by, out of camera range but ready to spring into action at any threat. The adults have a lot of time and energy invested in their offspring, and they are not likely to abandon or neglect them.
What happens if one of the adults is hurt or dies? Could the other one raise these demanding youngsters alone?
If something happens during incubation, the eggs usually have to be abandoned so the adult can survive. Now that they are hatched, it would be possible to raise the chicks solo, but it would not be easy. These chicks have the best chance to survive if both parents are present to provide enough food, protect them from predators, and help them become independent.
The American Kestrels occupying the nest box at our World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise are having a busy day. A chick hatched yesterday and another one hatched today. Three more to go! Catch the action on our KestrelCam.
Many viewers were understandably concerned last week that one of the chicks, probably the one that hatched last, was not able to compete well for food. But it is stronger now and has joined the feeding frenzy. Remember that not every chick needs precisely the same amount of food at every meal. If a chick misses out at one feeding, it will likely be at the head of the chow line for the next one.
The rate at which these birds will grow during the 45-day period from hatching to fledging never fails to impress. Chicks weigh a mere 1½ ounces (40 grams) when they emerge from their shells, yet they will be full-grown when they leave the nest. By the time they fledge, these little fluff balls will be 18 inches tall and have a wingspan of more than 3 feet!
Male falcons will grow up to be smaller than females, weighing about 21 ounces (600 grams) at fledging. Females will weigh about 35 ounces (1,000 grams). The males’ small size means they will develop faster and often leave the nest sooner than their bigger sisters.
The yolk inside the egg, which nourished the embryos during incubation, was absorbed into the body cavity of the chicks immediately prior to hatching. Although the yolks keep the chicks well-nourished for a few days, their begging instinct kicks in right away. The adults have been feeding them bits of food by tearing off small chunks of meat and delicately placing them in the chicks' beaks.
From our experience of successfully raising thousands of falcons in captivity in the last 40 years, we know that a begging chick is not necessarily a hungry chick. The adult birds know exactly how much food each chick requires. As effective as The Peregrine Fund is at feeding chicks, we know we will never do it as well as the natural parents.
It was a busy Mother’s Day for the female Peregrine Falcon! Two chicks could be seen in the nest Sunday morning and a third one hatched about 1 p.m. The fourth chick was observed this morning.
The adults will brood the four chicks for about 10 days, depending on the weather. The young birds are not yet capable of regulating their own body temperatures, so they need to sit under the adults for warmth. The young ones also can huddle together to keep warm.
The empty shells visible in the nest today will be blown out of the nest or removed by the adults along with feathers, bones, and other litter.
With hatching imminent, the chicks are preparing to break out of their shells. By now, they have internal organs, a circulatory system and skeleton, as well as a beating heart, feathers, and beak.
Hatching will be exhausting work for the tiny chicks, but they are developing biological tools especially for this purpose. An egg tooth is forming on the top of their beaks. When they are ready to emerge, the chicks will use this sharp structure to pierce the inside membrane and the shell. This small hole will allow oxygen to flow into the egg and fill their lungs. This stage of hatching is called “pipping.”
The adults know that pipping is about to begin when they hear the chicks vocalizing from inside the eggs.
The chicks also are developing a large muscle in the back of their necks, called a pipping muscle, which gives them the strength to chip their way out. Usually, hatching begins about 48 hours after pipping. The chicks will punch a dime-sized hole in the shell and then use their egg tooth to cut the top off the shell. A few days later, the chick’s egg tooth will fall off and the pipping muscle will disappear.
From time to time, the birds stand up and rotate the eggs. This is an important chore, as it ensures that the eggs are uniformly warmed and prevents the embryos from sticking to their shell, which could be a problem during hatching.
An egg is an amazing creation. It is fragile enough for a tiny chick to peck its way out, yet strong enough to withstand the weight of an incubating adult. That wasn’t always true. In the 1960s, scientists discovered that the pesticide DDT caused physiological problems in female Peregrine Falcons, resulting in thin-shelled eggs that broke during incubation.
DDT was banned in 1972 and The Peregrine Fund helped recover this once-endangered species with captive breeding and releases to the wild. It was one of the most successful conservation efforts in history.
The eggs are now more than three weeks old and everything appears to be progressing as expected. When the male is not incubating during the day, he is busy fulfilling his role as protector and provider.
To humans, the notion of sitting still for long periods of time during incubation seems intolerable, but for birds of prey of both sexes it is normal behavior. They do not waste energy. When birds are flying around, it’s easy to think that is what they do all day. In reality, birds of prey spend the vast majority of their time sitting still, conserving energy until it is time to hunt for food, attack or defend their territory, court, and raise their young.
You may catch the falcons napping once in a while, but they are alert during incubation.
Can you tell the male and female apart? It can be tricky unless the birds are standing side by side – in that case, the female will be noticeably larger than the male. This characteristic, which is common to most birds of prey, is called “reverse sexual size dimorphism.”
Also, the colors of a female’s feathers are slightly duller than a male’s but that is hard to see on the camera. Perhaps the best way to tell the difference between these two birds is by looking for distinguishing patterns and markings on their heads.
At least one of the birds has an identification band on one of its legs. The numbers are not visible on the webcam but if they were, they would tell us the sex of the bird and when and where it was banded. Band numbers are kept at a central registry so that if any banded bird is found or captured, the number can be tracked. Scientists use this information to research topics like raptor survival, behavior, and migration patterns.
With a body temperature of 104 degrees F, the adults are able to keep the eggs warm even in cold spring weather. During incubation, a “brood patch” develops on the chests of the adults. This bare spot keeps the eggs in close contact with the parents’ bodies for maximum heat.
The patch remains for up to two weeks after the eggs hatch because new chicks are unable to regulate their own body temperatures for that long and continue to depend on their parents for warmth. The brood patch fades and feathers fill back in as the youngsters grow older.
The female laid a fourth egg today, marking the end of the laying period. The third egg had arrived early Saturday morning, as expected. Records show that researchers have observed five eggs in a nest, but only in extremely rare cases.
The adults will share incubation duties, with female on the eggs at night and the male taking his turn at times during the day. The eggs will be incubated for 33-35 days.
A second egg appeared in the nest this morning, right on schedule. A third egg should come on Saturday.
Peregrine Falcons produce three or four eggs, which are laid at intervals of about 50 hours. Typically, the falcons do not begin incubating until the third or fourth egg arrives so that all the eggs hatch about the same time. Otherwise, the bigger, first-hatched chick would have an unfair advantage at feeding time over the smaller, last-hatched chick. You will see both adults sitting on the eggs at times over the next few days but incubation does not begin in earnest until the laying period ends.
The eggs are capable of withstanding temperatures below freezing. The chicks do not develop much inside the egg until incubation begins.
Occasionally, the eggs will appear to be left alone for short periods but, even when the adults are out of camera range, you can rest assured that at least one is always nearby to keep a close watch over the eggs.
The female laid her first egg this afternoon shortly after 4 p.m. This is the earliest date for the first egg since the webcam project began in 2009. Look for the second egg to appear on Wednesday or Thursday.
Peregrine Falcons prey strictly on other birds. With plenty of pigeons, starlings, and other birds available in downtown Boise, there will be no shortage of food for these excellent hunters.
During courtship, the male offers the female food to demonstrate his hunting prowess. These food exchanges allow the male to show he will be a good provider for her during incubation and for the chicks after hatching. The male will often place food in a cache for the female.
Occasionally you may notice that the adults appear to be trying to cough up something. The birds regularly cast a pellet of indigestible feathers and bones. The pellet, about the size of a large kidney bean, is a normal part of the birds’ digestive system.
Are you wondering what the new object in the left corner of the picture is? It’s a rock. One of our biologists went up to the nest last week and placed three large rocks at the west end of the box to discourage the falcons from laying the eggs beneath the camera and out of sight, as they did last year.
Courtship between adult Peregrine Falcons is a fascinating process. You may see the birds engaged in a variety of courtship behaviors in and around the nest, including
They also are working on a scrape, the shallow depression in the gravel where eggs will be laid. You may see one of birds lie down and kick out gravel with its legs. Based on past experience, the first egg will appear in April, but only the birds know precisely what day that will be.
Because these are wild falcons, we do not try to determine their identity from year to year nor do we give them names. We cannot say with certainty whether either of these birds nested here last year, but it is very likely at least one, if not both, did.
Welcome to the 2013 FalconCam season! We hope you enjoy the redesigned FalconCam page and the new feature we have added this year: a place for you to record and share daily observations at the nest.
We will keep you informed about what is happening at the nest in the Updates section on the FalconCam webpage, so please check back regularly. You also can have FalconCam Updates emailed directly to your inbox by signing up at my.peregrinefund.org. If you have never registered before, simply create your own login and password and check the box for "Falconcam Update." If you have registered previously, don’t do a thing – if you received them last year, you will receive them this year.
This is the fifth year a webcam has monitored the nest box in downtown Boise. Peregrine Falcons have been seen in and around the nest box recently, so we hope they will settle in soon.
Thank you for your interest in our webcam and these fascinating birds! Please show your support for this and other Peregrine Fund projects to conserve birds of prey by becoming a member or making a donation. We are glad to have you in our flock!
When The Peregrine Fund was founded in 1970, Peregrine Falcons were in danger of extinction in North America and Europe. The falcons had disappeared from the eastern half of the United States and were in serious decline west of the Mississippi River.
At the first Peregrine Conference in 1965, biologists concluded that the unprecedented population crash coincided with the widespread use of DDT and other pesticides. Many experts and falconers believed that breeding the birds in captivity would keep the species alive should the wild population become extinct. At a second meeting in 1969, participants asked the United States, Canada, and Mexico to protect Peregrine Falcons. In 1970, the U.S. Department of Interior listed the Peregrine as endangered. The use of DDT was banned in 1972. The Peregrine Falcon remained in the endangered category when Congress approved the Endangered Species Act in 1973.
The first captive breeding facility was built at Cornell University, where Dr. Tom Cade had recently joined the faculty. In 1970, a 40-chamber barn, dubbed “Peregrine Palace,” near Cornell’s Laboratory of Ornithology became the home of the recovery effort. The same year, two schoolboys sent money to Tom to save the falcon from extinction. He deposited in a fund for that purpose, and The Peregrine Fund was born.
The captive breeding effort began with birds from the wild and donated by falconers. The first breeding season occurred in the spring of 1971.
That first season wasn’t easy. Only a few birds of prey had ever been bred successfully in captivity at the time and useful information was limited. But a few early cases proved that it could be done. Over the years, Tom and his crew persevered, pioneering innovative techniques to produce viable eggs, healthy chicks, and fledglings capable of surviving in the wild.
In 1974, four of the 23 Peregrine Falcons produced that year were released to the wild to see what would work best on a large scale: hacking, fostering, cross-fostering, and released adult mated pairs. Two chicks were placed in the nest of an adult pair that had lost their eggs earlier in the season. The foster parents successfully raised them to fledging. The other two were released using the hacking method using a box, platform, or other structure and supplemental feeding until independence.
Hack sites proved to be a highly effective way to release young birds. Biologists scaled rugged mountains and rappelled down steep cliffs to install hack boxes where juvenile falcons would have a good chance to survive. Hack-site attendants braved howling winds, snow and cold, bears, insects, and rattlesnakes to feed and monitor the young birds until they dispersed. From 1974 to 1997, nearly 4,000 captive-bred falcons were released to the wild throughout the United States.
Always a rare bird even in the best of times, the Peregrine Falcon now is found throughout nearly all of its historical range in North America, as well as in areas where it never was before. To the delight of urban dwellers, the falcons have adapted to tall buildings reminiscent of their natural cliff habitat. Building ledges and artificial nest boxes provide places to rear their young and pigeons and city birds like pigeons are an excellent food source.
In 1999, the people who had participated in what became one of the most successful recovery efforts in history gathered for a celebration at The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho. The occasion: official removal of the Peregrine Falcon from the U.S. Endangered Species List.
Public support has been vital to the falcon’s recovery from the beginning. Rachel Carson’s landmark book, “Silent Spring,” captured the public’s attention about an alarming loss of wildlife. As people learned more about the plight of the Peregrine Falcon in articles, media reports, books, and films, they responded with money and support. Through the years, thousands of individuals and many falconry clubs, conservation groups, federal and state agencies, and private businesses and landowners became partners in the project.
As it did with DDT, the Peregrine Falcon continues to be an excellent indicator warning of contaminants in the environment, such as possible effects of the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Research on this tenacious bird now spans a half-century, providing a wealth of data that can be used to ensure the health and safety of many species, including humans.
Falcons do not build nests. Eggs are laid and incubated in a “scrape,” which the falcons build by pushing the gravel out behind them with their legs.
The birds “bow” to each other by leaning forward with their heads low and their tails held high. They make an “ee-chupping” sound. Both the male and female bow and vocalize over the scrape and may touch bills. The male offers food to the female, which takes it from his talons or beak, often accompanied by ee-chups or loud vocalizations.
Peregrine Falcons generally keep the same mate from year to year, but if one dies, the surviving bird will seek another.
A typical clutch is three to four eggs, which are incubated for 32 to 35 days. The parents will use their beaks to roll and shift the eggs periodically during incubation. The male assists by sitting on the eggs while the female leaves to eat. The eggs will not hatch if they are infertile or the young dies during incubation.
Called an eyas, a chick stays warm under its parent during the brooding period. Chicks are fed by both parents, who make sure each chick receives enough to eat. They are in the nest for six to seven weeks.
Chicks prepare to leave the nest by flapping their wings in the nest, then taking short test flights. For about six weeks, they continue to be fed by their parents while honing their flying and hunting skills before striking out on their own.
The camera is attached to a nest box on the 14th floor of the One Capital Center Building, 10th and Main streets, in downtown Boise. The box is on a ledge on the northwest corner of the building. The webcam may be viewed on a television monitor in the lobby.
Here are some significant dates from previous years:
|Camera started||March||March 10||March 22||March 21|
|First egg laid||April 10||April 16||April 7||? (out of sight)|
|Last egg laid||April 17||April 23||April 14||April 30|
|Hatching began||May 17||May 25||May 16||June 4|
|Last hatch||May 18||May 26||May 17||June 4|
|First fledge||June 25||July 1||June 24||July 13|
|Camera turned off||August||August||August||August 24|
The Peregrine Falcon was removed from the U.S. Endangered Species List in 1999. The Peregrine Fund was established in 1970 to recover the species by producing young birds in captivity and releasing them to the wild. The population of the species continues to be monitored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and individual states.
The population had been decimated by DDT, a pesticide that thinned the eggshells of many types of birds of prey, including the Bald Eagle. The use of DDT was banned in the United States in 1972.
In 2009, The Idaho Department of Fish and Game removed the Peregrine Falcon from the state endangered species list on the 10th anniversary of the federal delisting. Like all birds of prey, the Peregrine Falcon remains fully protected by state and federal law.
Peregrine Falcons were essentially gone from Idaho by 1974. Starting in 1982, captive-bred falcons were released to the wild in Idaho and nearby states. In 1995, the raptors were again documented as a breeding species and releases were discontinued. Eight falcons were released in downtown Boise in 1988 and 1989. Today, there are about two dozen breeding pairs scattered around the state.
For this season, the video should work on both desktop and mobile systems, regardless of operating system or browser. If you have difficulty viewing the video, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two young boys first put the “fund” in The Peregrine Fund by sending money to founder Tom Cade in 1970. You can continue their legacy — donate today to conserve birds of prey around the world.